Quebec Indigenous leaders concerned elders’ needs not considered for papal visit | Canadian

Preparations are well underway in Quebec City for the visit of Pope Francis a week from now.

The stop will be part of his trip to Canada and he’s expected to apologize to Indigenous Peoples for atrocities at Catholic residential schools.

“The visit is significant because for survivors, for people who’ve gone through the school system, it’ll probably be a way for them to help with their own reconciliation,” explained Chadwick Cowie, assistant professor in the political science department at the University of Toronto.

But many are afraid that some of those survivors, who’re now elders, will be left out.

There will be two gatherings in the province. The first is Wednesday at the Plains of Abraham, which is open to the public – tens of thousands are expected.

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The main Quebec event is a mass next Thursday at the basilica in Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré, northeast of Quebec City, where the Pope is expected to apologize.

“The mass is at 10 o’clock in the morning, so the logistics are very tricky because you have to be in a certain area by 6 o’clock in the morning,” Arnold Boyer, Council Chief at Mohawk community on Montreal’s south shore told Global News.

He doesn’t know if any residential school survivors in Kahnawá:ke will be able to attend the mass.

He says a group of parishioners is expected to leave from the Saint Francis-Xavier Mission Catholic Church in the community, but the seniors might not be among them.

“If they were to leave here and go with the church they would have to leave here at 2:30 drive to Longueuil and catch a bus at 3 o’clock in the morning,” he said, adding it’s too much for elders like his parents who are residential school survivors in their 80s.

Click to play video: 'Last-minute scramble to prepare for Pope Francis visit to Alberta'

Last-minute scramble to prepare for Pope Francis visit to Alberta

Last-minute scramble to prepare for Pope Francis visit to Alberta

Others wonder why only 70 per cent of the 1,600 seats inside the basilica are reserved for the Indigenous population, up from just 400 weeks earlier after an outcry from Indigenous groups.

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“We pushed really hard to the organizers that that there should be a priority given to survivors,” Ghislain Picard, chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador pointed out.

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Despite the restrictions though, Picard is hopeful.

“We were told, and that provided some comfort, that nobody will be turned away,” he said.

Now with the Papal visit just days away, Indigenous communities are waiting to see just what the Pope’s message will be.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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